Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Life Cycle of a Salesperson

I've always thought that if I was truly doing my job as a salesperson that customers would continue to buy my company's product or service even whenever I was not available - if I was on vacation, had left the company or was promoted. This may sound contradictory since I have stressed how important relationships are with customers.

But hear me out... if you truly do your job as a salesperson by selling the benefits and value of your product then your customer will want to buy your product from anyone who is selling it. This concept has led me to develop the life cycle of a sales rep.

Baby Sales Rep
This person is just out of training and trying to learn his product and how to communicate how great it is. All he does is eat, sleep and poop. He goes through the motions of selling the product but is still learning how to respond to the world out there - and how to handle customer objections. He is learning that crying to get your way doesn't encourage prospective customers to buy.

Toddler Sales Rep
This guy is off and running and has no fear. He's anxious to get his feet wet and lets his mouth overload his capabilities. At this stage a sales person is trying anything to get the sale and hasn't learned to under promise and over deliver. He hasn't learned to look at the big picture as far as what is best for his company or organization - his just wants to make the sale at all costs and doesn't consider consequences of promises he makes.

Teenage Sales Rep
This salesperson is pretty seasoned in selling his product. He is focused on developing his own style and he is maturing in his role. Everything still seems to revolve around the salesperson and his own world. He is more concerned with selling himself than his product or company. His approach is more "buy from me because you like me - and I'll take care of you." And, because it is a fact that we buy from people we like the teenage sales rep will experience success.

This salesperson can move over to a competing company and convince the customer to buy from him at the new company. What this salesperson doesn't have is the support to maintain the customer when catastrophe hits. That is, when the product fails then the customer will realize that the teenage rep can't take care of him.

Adult Sales Rep
This salesperson realizes that to maintain long term customers that the salesperson, the product and the company all have to be part of the package. Yes, it is important to have a good relationship with your customers. But it is also important to continually educate them on the benefits your product and service provide. It is important to educate customers on the integrity and quality with which your company operates. Your customers should be so "sold" on your product that if your were promoted and moved to another country they would continue to buy from the company.

Here are some ways to create customers that are really "sold" on your product:

  • Tell your customer about the quality control that your factory uses to minimize defects

  • Introduce your client to different layers of your company such as a technician, senior manager, engineer, etc.

  • Tell the customer about awards or achievements that your company experiences

  • Mail your customer a copy of an article written about your product or company

  • Whenever they are happy with you as a sales rep don't forget to use this an an opportunity to brag on the company, too. For example, you might say, "The reason I was able to get you the replacement part so soon is because we have a 24 hour call facility to handle spare parts."

Friday, July 28, 2006

Timing is Key - Don't Shoot All of Your Bullets at Once!

In real estate it's "location, location, location!" In sales it's "timing, timing, timing!"

While working with a client this week I was reminded of the importance of timing in the sales process. People won't buy until the timing for them is right. Make sure you are there when the timing is right for them OR make sure that you are the one they think of when they are ready to buy. One way to insure you are top of mind for your customer is to not shoot all your bullets at once!

By this I mean to carefully dole out information to your customer on a gradual basis. This can be handled during a 20 minute meeting or over the course of several months or even years. Here are few examples of how to work timing in your favor:

  • Hold Back Information. During a short customer meeting have open ended questions planned in advance to help uncover what is important to your customer. These need to be sincere and then listen to what your customer says. (As sales people we sometimes have a hard time listening because we are trying to think of what to say next!). Start with a dialog and gradually reveal information about what you are selling throughout the conversation! Don't tell them everything you know in the first 5 minutes.

  • Make "Creative" Excuses. The work I did this week was for a professional speaker. Since I know this can be a fairly long sales process I began by mailing the customer information about the speaker. I held back some of the speaker's marketing materials to save for the future so I would have an "excuse" to contact the customer again.

    Instead of my first follow up phone calling going like this:
    "Hi, this is Zan. Have you decided to hire my speaker?"

    It went like this,
    "Hi, this is Zan. I just wanted to make sure you received the information.
    By the way, did I tell you about this speaker's recent article in People
    magazine? Why don't I mail you a copy of the article?"

    By doing this I've still created the opportunity to ask the customer if they want to hire my speaker - but I have positioned the phone call as a request to make sure the customer has the information they need and then be able to offer more value to them. In addition, I've created another excuse to call again and say, "Hi, this is Zan. Just wanted to make sure you had received a copy of the People article?"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tips for Proper Business Communication

This week I was reminded of the cardinal rule of business communication:

Never put anything in writing that you wouldn't want printed on the front page of your local newspaper!

My experience this week was so nasty that I've developed a new cardinal rule of business communication: Never put anything in writing that you wouldn't want your minister to read in front of the church congregation!

While working with one of my clients to help her jazz up her sales we encountered a potential customer that was definitely not interested! He was so "not interested" that he took the time to reply with a scorching email that insulted her personally, her staff and her business and went on to state that he was going to use this experience in his consulting business on how NOT to do business. I'm sure his negative remarks helped him blow off some serious steam but the fact is that he was incorrect in his accusations. And his credibility has been diminished by his lack of professionalism. And my client is very well connected within her industry.

In light of this experience, here are my tips for proper business communication:

  • Business communication takes many forms. It includes letters, emails, advertising and print media, fax cover sheets, business signs, business cards, invoices and receipts, and contract documents.

  • We all know there are conversations we have with clients in person or over the phone that include information we will not (and should not) put in writing. An example of this is information about your competitors, personal information about anyone (especially someone's health or medical condition) and information about your business that you don't want to be public knowledge. Assume anything you put in writing could end up in your competitor's hands!

  • Always use proper punctuation, spelling and grammar. Be careful not to take a "too casual" tone with email. This is the current business communication and it needs to be professional. Make sure your emails include a greeting like "Dear Jane" or "Hi Jane," and end with a salutation that includes your name, title, company name, phone number, email address and website address. Always use spell check!

  • Stay away from business slang words and never use profanity.

  • If you have a beef and want to put it in writing stay away from personal assaults, exaggeration and slanderous language. Keep the correspondence formal by stating actual facts and using objective words that do not have an accusatory tone.

  • Keep it short and simple. If possible, keep letters to one page. Use short paragraphs and get to the point quickly. Using bullets to make your points helps your reader stay on track and the spacing on the document is pleasing to the eyes.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

7 Buying Signals That Say, "Stop Talking!"

As I worked with one of my clients this week on booking appointments for her consulting services I was reminded that the "gift of gab" can be a curse.

As a small business owner we are so passionate about what we do that we forget that our customers really don't need ALL OF THE INFORMATION that we have. All a potential customer needs is just enough information to make his buying decision. Any information given to a customer after he decides to buy from you then begins to give him reasons to change his mind.

I'm not implying that one should be deceptive by withholding information from potential clients. What I am implying is that giving a potential customer ideas to doubt his decision to buy from you does not put the odds in your favor. In light of this discussion, here are 7 buying signals from potential customers that indicate it is time to stop talking about the product or service you provide and to zip it!

  1. They reach for their wallet to pay you.

  2. They pull out a pen so they can sign your contract or agreement.

  3. They ask when you can begin work or when the product can be delivered.

  4. You ask them for their business and they say, "Yes."

  5. You give them information about when you can begin work or deliver the product and they say, "Sounds good."

  6. They tell you they have talked to other companies but like yours the most.

  7. You have told them all about your product or service and they ask for the price. (Unless the customer is buying solely on price, this is a buying signal).

These tips may sound funny and intuitive but take it from me - even the best of the best in sales let the gift of gab spoil the sale. Sometimes it is just nervous energy that keeps the conversation going. Remember, it is okay to keep the conversation going after the customer has made his buying decision just as long as the topic of the conversation is not about the details of what your client just bought or signed up for!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Handling the Price Objection

Handling a price objection is easier when you are an employee of a company whose prices are fixed and not negotiable. But when you have your own business, especially a service business, and a customer challenges your price it can be difficult to overcome. As a small business owner a price objection may make you doubt the actual value of your services.

Depending on how established your business is or how much you NEED new business you may be tempted to make unnecessary price concessions to customers. This creates 2 problems: 1) you lose confidence in your value as a business, 2) your client now feels that your pricing is negotiable.

If you focus entirely on price to sell your product or service then so will your customers. Here are some ways to take to focus off of your price:

  • Don't bring it up! If your customer does not mention price DO NOT BRING IT UP. Assume that the price is agreeable and proceed with the sale.

  • Know your value. Determine at lease 3 specific things that your product or service provides that your competitors do not provide.

    Some ways to differentiate your value are: your length of time in business, extended hours of operation, education level of your employees, safety features of your product(s), the screening process for hiring your employees, the quality control measures you have in place, documentation you provide, etc. Don't mention your competitors by name unless your customer brings it up. Know how and why you do things better and be able to explain this to your customer.

  • Provide return on investment. Understand how paying more for your product or service can save your customer time, energy and money in the long run. Can documentation your service provides help reduce your customers liability exposure? Is your product more efficient and therefore requires less time and energy to use? Is your product more durable and will last longer? Do your quality control measures provide additional piece of mind to your customer so he doesn't feel the need to double check the job you've done?

  • Some people just want a deal. For some customers the price objection is just part of their negotiating technique. In order for these customers to feel good about their purchase they have to perceive that you have made some concession for them. So instead of making a concession on price make them a deal on delivery time, volume discounts, contract duration or terms, payment options, etc.

  • Don't be afraid to walk away. There will be instances when it is best to turn away a potential customer because you are not willing to lower your price. In order for you to maintain price integrity in your business you must be willing to let some customers slip away.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Sales Call #1 - How to Get the First Appointment

The first step in closing a sale is getting the first appointment. It seems like it would be so easy...

Step 1: Pick up the phone
Step 2: Ask for your contact person
Step 3: Set a time to meet
Step 4: Hang up

But it's not that easy! Voice mail screens out the best of us and now many clients prefer email instead of phone calls... which means it's even easier for them to say, "No, I'm unable to meet with you, Ms. Salesperson."

So here are some tips to jazz up your success rate for getting that first appointment:

  • Get to the Point. When cold calling a prospect don't patronize him by making small talk like, "Hi, how are you today?" This will raise a red flag that you are trying to sell something and a busy person will tune you out right away. Instead, begin the conversation by introducing yourself and stating exactly why you are calling. By getting to the point quickly you will come across honest, sincere and considerate of his time.

  • Email, too. If you have the prospects email address then follow up with an email. You might write something like, "Hi Mr. Prospect, I just left you a voicemail to ask if you have a few minutes next week to discuss your janitorial service. Do you have a few minutes next Tuesday or Wednesday?"

  • Show Up. It's harder to say "No" to a request if someone asks you face to face. Find an excuse to call on the prospect in person to ask for the appointment.

  • Bring Gifts. Provide a gift that is inexpensive, usable and reflects your business. For example, an office supply rep might say, "Hi, I was in the area and wanted to bring you a few of these new 'slimline' staplers. Would you happen to have a few minutes in the next week or so for us to discuss your office supply contract?" Better yet, if there is a Starbuck's nearby stop by and purchase at least 2 coffees. One for your prospect and 1 for the gatekeeper!

  • Don't be a Stalker. An unreturned phone call doesn't mean the prospect isn't interested or that they won't buy from you. I have closed $100,000+ deals with clients that never returned one phone call. Repeated phone calls make you sound desperate and are annoying. Come up with different ways of establishing contact with a prospect.

    For example, you might send an introductory letter a week before you call a prospect on the phone and another letter a week after your first phone attempt. Or, locate a newspaper or business journal article that applies to the prospect and mail it to them along with your business card. I even broke down one time and sent a cookie bouquet to a prospect as a last ditch effort to get an appointment - it worked!

  • Go to Lunch. Everyone has to eat. Invite a prospect to lunch and just spend that time visiting with them about their business. Don't make it a major sales presentation about your company and if the person is of the opposite sex do not make it seem like a date! Don't flirt and always keep the conversation professional and business like. Offer to pick your prospect up at his office and let him choose the restaurant. Have a restaurant in mind in case your prospect can't decide where to go. Pick up the tab and buy a to-go dessert for the administrative assistant back at the office.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Still be a Cliche'

Working in the business world we are all subjected to our share of clichés. Large companies live for the new cliché and the initiative that goes with the cliché. Every now and then a business cliché gets a little long it the tooth and we continue to use it even though we aren’t sure what it means anymore. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Ask forgiveness instead of permission. I learned this one working for a large Fortune 30 Corporation. Sometimes waiting on a critical decision from the higher-ups gives the customer time to shop and buy from the competition. When you see the writing on the wall, it’s best to beg forgiveness after you’ve taken proper action to make the sale or satisfy a customer need than to wait for permission to execute.

  • Taking it to the next level. All businesses want to take “IT” to the next level. But this leaves a lot up to the imagination. First, we need to know at what level we are operating now so that we can take "it" to the next level. What does the next level look like? Why don’t we just call a spade a spade and say, “Let’s grow our profit by 15% this year.”

  • Work hard, play hard. This essentially means, “burn the candle at both ends.” As a business owner, wife, community and church volunteer and mother of 2, I suggest recoining this cliché to, “Work hard, sleep hard.”

  • Pick the low hanging fruit. Sales professionals have all heard this one. It refers to grabbing the easiest and fastest business right away. Quality experts refer to it as improvements and innovations that can be implemented immediately. Go after business and innovations that are ripe for the picking. Remember, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you go after the low hanging fruit all day you might end up with sour grapes.

  • Under promise and over deliver. This is my favorite because it is the pinnacle of great customer service – providing more than is expected. It’s the polar opposite of being “close, but no cigar.” The challenge is actually trying to under promise without opening up a can of worms with the customer. If you said, “Well, Mr. Smith, I understand that you’d like your taxes completed by April 15th but I’m not sure that’s possible,” there’s a chance this client would hit the road!

But at the end of the day there’s nothing like a catchy cliché to prove your point and motivate your team. After all, it is important to think outside of the box!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

How to Create a Great "Leave Behind"

Part of marketing yourself and your business is providing your customer a nugget of value for free. While neat koozies, cool magnets and coffee mugs are great for name recognition – prospective clients tend to hang on to information that will benefit them. When marketing to your target audience and when meeting face-to-face with a potential customer a great “leave behind” will put the odds in your favor for future business.

  • Make it juicy! Think of some great facts about your business and how you approach them. An insurance agent might leave behind an article on “7 Facts that Contribute to Auto Insurance Cost.”

  • Go for functionality. Office supplies or business aids that your client will use on a daily basis will keep your name alive. Mouse pads, pens, or post-it notes with your logo are hard for people to throw away because they are usable.

  • Know who you are. Make sure the leave behind accurately reflects your business and has obvious tie-in to the product or service you provide. For example, a carpet cleaning company might leave a calendar with monthly stain cleaning tips to help maintain a spot free carpet.

  • Let your business card do the work. A car dealer’s business card might have “5 Things to Consider When Buying a Car” facts printed on the back. I worked with someone at Hershey Chocolate who taped a small Hershey bar on the back of her cards. Create a reason for your business card to be saved.

  • Use pictures and market to the pain. Think about the pain your clients might experience without your product or service. An attorney might leave behind a brochure with a photo of a smiling family and list reasons to have a will in place.

  • Wait until you actually leave. That’s the idea of the “leave behind.” You don’t want the client to be checking out your golden nuggets of information while you are still talking to them. It has to be enticing enough for them to look at it, read and save after you have left.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

How to Communicate How Great You Are in 20 Seconds or Less!

When meeting new people and prospective clients first impressions are key. How we introduce ourselves sets the tone for the conversation and, as a business owner, we want people to be interested in what we can do for them.

This is called your elevator speech. It’s that concise, 15 to 20 second blurb about you or your business that will catch someone’s interest in the time you spend riding up in an elevator. Studies show that an average elevator ride lasts15 to 20 seconds. (Trust me, I worked for Otis Elevator for 12 years!). Here are 5 tips for communicating how great you are during a 20 second elevator ride:

  • The take off. Begin with a short statement or question that has a “Wow” effect. For example, a landscaping service owner might say, “Did you know that where vegetation grows suicide and child mortality are less than in places where there are no plants or lawns?”

  • Going Up. In less than 150 words, describe the product or service your business sells and who it sells to. Don’t go into detail.

  • Push the button. Know your competition and what your business does that separates you from them. Mention it briefly without naming your competitor. A pediatrician might say, “One thing that we are able to do is to see sick children on the same day of the call.”

  • Enjoy the ride. Smile, be upbeat, and be memorable. Since I have an unusual name I sometimes introduce myself by saying, “My name is Zan - like Tarzan.” I worked with someone who sold shelving who introduced himself by saying “I secure the world’s shelving needs one shelf at a time.”

  • Stop at several floors. Practice your blurb, out loud, in front of family and friends. Be very comfortable with its delivery. It should flow from your mouth with little effort.

  • Time to walk out. End with a request. Do you want a business card, a referral, an opportunity for a presentation or to schedule a meeting? Ask and then LISTEN! Resist the urge to say anything else. You want your message to be just long enough to leave someone wanting more!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

How to Use e-Technology to Jazz Up Your Sales

Today, more than 85% of small businesses have PCs and almost 30% have their own websites. Statistics predict that small e-merchants, or internet based businesses with less than 10 employees, could soon account for as much as 10% of the U.S. gross domestic product.

Small businesses that do not conduct web-based transactions still utilize online technology in daily operations. Below is a thumbnail sketch of how to use e-technology in your small business:
  • Website. Your home page should reflect the personality of your business and have some pizzazz! Brainstorm to find unique and intriguing words to use on your home page so that your website will catch a web surfer's eye! A thesaurus may come in handy. The 3 minimum contents of a small business website are:

    1. A jazzy homepage that tells people why they should read it.

    2. A bio page that tells your readers about you and your business.

    3. Content that changes regularly to entice people to revisit your website.

  • Electronic Newsletters. The 2 keys to a great electronic newsletter are your database and the newsletter content. It is critical that your newsletter be emailed to people who have given you their email addresses for the purpose of receiving a newsletter and to be sure to provide an “Opt Out” option so that recipients may unsubscribe to your newsletter. The content of your newsletter needs to be limited to 400-600 words and be visually appealing. Use action oriented phrases, bullets, short paragraphs and edgy words that provoke emotion. Use a little humor and have fun!

  • E-mail. Treat your email as if it were a letter to your client. It needs to have a greeting, like “Dear Jane” or “Hi Jane”, a well-constructed and punctuated body of text and a salutation that includes your name, title, company name, phone number, email address and website.

  • Blogs. DUH! See my April 10, 2006 blog entry: How Blogs Help Your Small Biz

  • Webinars: These are web-based seminars that allow a small business owner to put a PowerPoint presentation online, narrate it, add video and let prospects view it 24-7-365 at their leisure. Prospective clients all over the country can be reached and you only perform the seminar once – while your prospects come to you via the web. Not only are they great publicity tools but many webinar viewers pay a small fee. Cha-Ching!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Guess What I Did at the Sandwich Shop? (Turning Mad Customers into Fans!)

At the request of my 4 year old, last Friday I headed to one of my favorite sandwich shops for lunch. I love the sandwiches and my daughter loves the pizzas. We entered the restaurant at 11:50.

Clue #1 There was only one table with 2 ladies eating in the whole restaurant.

Clue #2 There were no customers in line at the order counter.

So my daughter and I approached the order counter and waited a few seconds.

Clue #3 There was no employee standing at the order counter to take our order.

We waited a few more seconds. Finally, the employee working at the drive through window saw us standing at the counter, looked around and yelled, "Where's Melanie?"

Clue #4 After a few more seconds Melanie still did not appear.

Clue #5 Finally Melanie appeared with a telephone in her hand, looked at me, continued talking on the phone, held up her pointer finger and mouthed, "Just one second." She talked for a while longer and then disappeared behind a wall to continue her conversation.

All of this at ten of noon on a Friday, with no one in line in front of me or behind me at a nationally known sandwich shop on the busiest boulevard in the city. As someone who has spent her entire professional life working to satisfy customers I was irritated. Now I knew why the sandwich shop had no one in line at 11:50 on a Friday.... bad customer service.

Know what I did? I left. Even though I was craving the food, even though my 4 year old had lobbied hard to eat there, even though I was first in line.... I left. I chose not to give this business my money. And I will not go back. And I blabbed to my friends about the bad experience.

But this situation could have been easily turned around by the business. What if "Melanie" had followed me out to my car and said, "I am so sorry, I should not have been talking on the phone. Please come back in. I'll give you and your daughter free drinks and cookies with your meal." Think I would have changed my mind? You bet!

The extra effort to regain my business would have left an even bigger impression than if the whole lunch experience had been just satisfactory to begin with. As a small business owner, an unsatisfied customer represents an opportunity to create a customer for life. Here are some tips for handling upset customers and turning them into your biggest fans:

  • LISTEN to why the customer is upset. Don't defend yourself or your business.
  • Acknowledge and apologize for what has happened but don't explain why it happened. In my case, Melanie could have said, "I apologize that you were having to wait on me. I am sorry I kept you waiting." A bad way for her to apologize is, "I am sorry I was on the phone but my ex-husband hasn't paid child support in 2 months and that was a creditor on the phone...blah, blah, blah."
  • Confirm that you understand why the customer is unhappy. Ask questions to clarify what you THINK you heard the customer say. Examples are, "What you are saying is.... right?" or "I'm not sure I understand fully, could you tell me more about....." or "What you were hoping for was..... is that right?"
  • Propose a solution that will satisfy the customer. It is very important not to overpromise. Know what you can realistically do to solve the problem and then execute.
  • Follow up to confirm that the solution did indeed rectify the problem. The sandwich shop employee could have personally checked on me while I was eating my meal to see if I was satisfied. When I worked for Otis Elevator I would frequently drive to a customer's building to "check on" a fixed elevator (even though the mechanic had told me it was running). When I worked for a medical diagnostic company I would call a customer to verify that the replacement reagents had arrived the next day (even though I had seen the FedEx confirmation). As a small business owner you want to get credit for "solving" your customer's problem. Don't miss the opportunity to follow up on a corrected situation to confirm the customer's satisfaction and so that your customer can acknowledge the corrective actions of your business.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Putting the Mojo in Your Logo

Designing a logo that reflects the style and energy of your business can be challenging and fun. As a small business owner, the expense of a logo design may not be a top priority. But, which of these companies would you most likely remember? Sales JaZ or......

Some logos are simply pictures - take Target stores for example with the red and white bulls-eye or the Nike swoosh. A logo serves as a jumpstart to the brain's memory and leaves a greater impact than mere words. The important thing to remember is for your logo to be unique, simple and easy to recognize.

Here are 7 tips for designing a logo for your small business.

  1. Know Your Concept. What type of "big picture" message do you want your business to convey? You must first determine what your logo will say about your company. Do you want to convey the message of trust, honesty, safety, stability, environmentally friendly, etc.? I recently redesigned my logo and wanted to maintain an action oriented theme. Since my company is called, "Sales JaZ" I was playing off of the word "jazz" which promotes a cheerful, upbeat and motion oriented theme. My website also has a man playing a trombone. I wanted the "S" in "Sales" to look like a treble clef and the "J" in "JaZ" to look like a musical note. Again playing off the word "jazz."

  2. Jazz it Up with Color. The psychology of colors in logos runs the gambit: yellow means faith and friendship, blue means peace, love and loyalty, purple connotes royalty and spirituality, orange exudes passion and enthusiasm, green signifies money and wisdom, red means danger, heat and speed, and black shows sophistication and mystery. Here are a few things to consider when using color in your logo:

    • Multiple colors increase the printing costs of letterhead and business cards. So consider the economics before selecting a 3 or 4 color logo.

    • While shading and color gradients look great they may not show up well on faxes, business checks or copies. All of the jazzy colors that look great on your website may not translate to other print media. Make sure your logo is easy to read and looks great in one simple flat color.

  3. Consider the Mediums. Your logo will be used on your website, letterhead, business cards, newspaper ads, magazines, etc. Readability in small and large sizes and fonts is important.

  4. Consider the Trends. Since designing a logo is an expense consider using images that will be viable in 5 to 10 years. Try not to be too trendy so that your logo can maintain its relevancy in years to come. Your logo should have a contemporary look and the message you are trying to convey to your customers should be clear.

  5. Graphics. There are 3 types of logos: text only, illustration only and the combo text and illustration. While the cool details of a logo can be fun and exciting remember that less is more. Even a unique font like the Coca Cola logo is effective. If you use both text and graphics in your logo then keep it simple.

  6. Tagline. This is the short jazzy sentence or phrase below your logo that sums up the essence or philosophy of your business. Mine is "Jazz Up the Sales of Your Business." Narrowing down your business philosophy to one short phrase is a serious challenge. Keep in mind that your tagline can change over time while your logo can remain the same. Consider Coca Cola's taglines over the years: "It's the Real Thing", "I'd like to Buy the World a Coke," "Coke Adds Life," and "Have a Coke and a Smile". When creating a tagline start by thinking of 1 or 2 words that exemplify your business philosophy and use them as your creative base.

  7. Do I need a trademark? Once you've decided on a logo you should consider registering your company name and logo as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Typically you will register your company name first and then your logo. The USPTO has a minimum filing fee of $325 per class of goods and services. An attorney will first want to do a full search of U.S. availability of federal and state trademarks before filing the application. For definitive questions and answers about trademarking contact a trademark attorney.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Does His Wife Like Mayonnaise or Mustard?

Stanley Marcus, of Neiman Marcus, said, “Consumers are statistics. Customers are people.” Getting to know the people that are your customers is the catalyst for sustaining long-term business relationships.

While talking about one of my key customers my boss once asked me, “Does his wife like mayonnaise or mustard on her sandwiches?” Since my customer was a building manager who employed my company for elevator service I wasn’t sure how the mayo and mustard question made sense. But his point became clear: when you are selling, especially a service, you are selling a relationship. A good relationship is rooted in knowing people: their likes and dislikes, family background, hobby interests, etc.

Here are 6 tips to jazz up the relationships you have with customers:

  1. Communicate regularly. When I worked for Otis Elevator it was surprising to know that the clients with the least amount of elevator problems were more likely to cancel service and hire the competition. The customers with fewer problems had less communication from an Otis mechanic or rep whereas the customers with the most problems had constant communication. The “problem customers” actually had more personal contact and thus stronger personal relationships. Communicate what you are doing for your customers – especially when your actions might not be immediately visible. You might call a customer to let him know that you double-checked the shipping schedule, contacted your warehouse or handled all of the paperwork – just words to give your customer peace of mind.

  2. Communicate with purpose. Dropping in or calling a client just to chew the fat only bugs your customer and wastes his time. A website designer might call his customer and say, “We haven’t provided updates to your website in the last few months and I have a great idea about how we could add an online customer satisfaction survey.” A carpet cleaning contractor might say, “While I was cleaning the 2nd floor I noticed some new stains and so I went ahead and spot treated the areas.”

  3. Spice it up. Use different approaches for building customer relationships. A combination of email, direct mail, newsletters, phone calls and face-to-face visits will maintain customer contact without irritating them.

  4. Write handwritten notes. People do read these! Write, “It was great seeing you yesterday at the luncheon. I’ll give you a call in a few weeks.” Or write, “Spring is around the corner and I thought of you. Give me a call when you are ready to look at our new spring arrivals. I can bring them by any time.”

  5. Walk in their shoes. If you read an article, read a book or see something on the news that would interest your customer drop them a note or make a quick phone call to tell them about it.

  6. Provide entertainment and participate. Don’t just give your customer tickets to the Dallas Cowboys football game. Instead, invite your customer and spouse to attend with you and your spouse. This enables you to get to know your client away from the office and to find out if his wife likes mayo or mustard on her sandwiches!

Monday, April 10, 2006

How Blogs Help Your Small Biz

Not only are blogs helpful for communication on short-term projects or during crisis management but they are useful in creating long-term relationships to help gain and maintain clients. Here are 6 ways a blog will help your small biz:

1. It establishes you as an expert in your industry.

2. They provide instant feedback by allowing readers to respond to your posts. Client likes and dislikes are revealed in an open, honest forum.

3. You can have a web-based presence without having a website. Blogs are inexpensive to set up and most blog service providers offer jazzy templates that have a professional appeal.

4. Seasonal issues can be addressed that provide readers with valuable information in a timely fashion. A landscaping service might provide quick tips and reminders on when it's time to cut back the crepe myrtle trees in your yard. An accountant may provide tax reminders as April 15th approaches.

5. The best small business blogs focus on content and interactivity and not gossip or rants.

6. Blogs provide a personal approach that lets your customers get to know you and help humanize your organization.